Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Let's Talk."

"Talking to people, one-on-one, is an extremely powerful form of communication, because it is personal and genuine. If many people with VWD and members of their families make a concious effort to speak up, it could have a big impact on educating the public." ~Renee Paper "A Guide to Living with von Willebrand Disease"

We've all had to talk about our bleeding disorder at one point. Sometimes it's voluntary and you're open to sharing, and other times it's just downright embarrassing and you give a 5-second explanation before changing the subject.

Personally, I've always been pretty open about my bleeding disorder. When I was little, I told most of my friends about it, and it was no big deal. But, as we get older, we all start becoming a little more self-conscious. In fact, the last time I was at the women's retreat that I go to, some of the teen girls were talking about how to tell their friends about their bleeding disorder. I mentioned that all my friends knew, and dealing with VWD was quite a bit simpler because of it!

But...I'm not always so unashamedly open. :P

For example: I was recently at a meeting with all the teens I'm graduating high school with this May. After the meeting ended we all sat around and talked about what we could do together as a group. And what was the first thing everyone wanted to do? Paintball. I sat there and thought: Great. Now I won't even get to hang out with everyone!. One of the guys in the group must have noticed I wasn't jumping on board because he looked at me and asked: "What's wrong?". The majority of the group stopped talking and looked at me. I kind of sank back in my chair a little and said: "Well...I...I'm not exactly allowed to go paint-balling." (BTW--that was a STUPID answer. I see that now. :]) By the time I finished dishing out that little tidbit of information the rest of the group was looking at me. The guy that had asked me in the first place got the really weird, disbelieving look on his face and said: "What? Why not?". I pulled at my jeans and did my best not to blush (a pretty failed attempt): "Well, I have a bleeding disorder. And I'm not really supposed to do stuff like paintball.". The guy looked super embarrassed and said: "Oh my gosh, I'm sorry! Ok, never mind. We'll do something that everyone can do. Sorry."

There were so many things wrong with the way I handled that situation. First, I was embarrassed about the fact I had a bleeding disorder, and second, I did absolutely nothing to explain why I couldn't play paintball. I had a great opportunity to educate someone about a rare bleeding disorder and instead I stayed quiet because I felt weird. Looking back, even late that same afternoon, I felt so bad. Where was that courage and self-confidence I'd just been talking about? One word: FAIL.

Later on at the meeting after everyone had left, the same guy approached me and asked: "So, like, what is that?" I knew he was referring to the bleeding disorder, and, still feeling embarrassed (I could kick myself for this), I said: "Oh, well, I bruise easily. So...paintball is kind of a 'no-no'."

I could've said: "Well it means that my blood doesn't clot right, so it takes a long time for me to stop bleeding." or "It's called von Willebrand's Disease and it means my blood doesn't clot right so I bleed for a long time." But what did I say? "I bruise easily." Ugh. What kind of an explanation is that?

Anyway, I tell this story because I know exactly how it feels to be embarrassed of your bleeding disorder. I know the term "chronic disorder" sounds creepy and weird, and I know sometimes it's hard to see yourself as perfect the way you are.

I should've handled that whole conversation in a mature, self-confident manner. But I let my nerves get the best of me. :) Will it happen again? Hopefully not! I'll try educating myself even more and instead of waiting to be asked about my bleeding disorder, I'll be open about it from the beginning!

Coming up, I'll have even more posts on how to talk about your bleeding disorder with your friends! And, as always, I'd love to hear your stories and techniques and advice! Feel free to leave a comment below and share!

Much love to all of you!

<3, Jamie

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